Saturday, December 2, 2023

Supreme Court modifies process for designation of Senior Advocates

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The Suprmee Court on Wednesday modified the marking process for selection and designation of Senior Advocates by the higher judiciary.

The bench of Justices U.U. Lalit, Ravindra Bhat and P.S. Narasimha have finally granted the relief in a prayer by Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, who sought standardised marking against years of experience.

The Bench said in its order, “Instead of 10 marks to be allotted to a counsel who has put in 10-20 years of practice, the marks be allotted commensurate with the standing of the person at the bar. This modification shall be effective from the date of this order.”

The Court had been hearing pleas that few High Courts were using “arbitrary and discriminatory” secret voting as a norm while conferring senior designations on lawyers. Senior Advocate Indira Jaising  decided to move the Supreme Court seeking clarity on whether it was violative of the judgement that was taken earlier in a similar case (Indira Jaising Vs Supreme Court of India).

In 2017, Senior Advocate Indira Jaising  had filed a case that the High Courts of Delhi and Punjab & Haryana have designated lawyers as Senior Advocates in a manner contrary to the 2017 judgment. It mentioned that even after marks were assigned by the Committee set up under the respective High Court Senior Designation Rules, the candidates were put to vote.

She mentioned, “It is humbly submitted that this frustrates the very purpose of having a committee, a marking system and cut off marks and brings back the subjective element in the matter of designation.” 

The senior advocate in her petition said full court vote cannot be a deciding factor for finding a worthy candidate as this is no election.

The 2017 judgment of this Supreme Court made it clear that voting was to be resorted only if unavoidable, she contended.

In the plea, she mentioned that whenever the decision to designate a person for a position is based on personal preferences and not on merit it does not serve the purpose as votes can be cast in favour of or against anyone you don’t like.

She further said that if voting is the criteria then the marking system is of no consequence.

She mentioned that if a person fails to be a popular and is not judged on marking , he may never be designated by the High Court.

The Bench said it will wait for a final response from Solicitor General Tushar Mehta before responding to the matter. His view on the same hold important.

The Bench took note of her issue and said “In the present scheme of assessing aspirants for senior designations, there may be counsel with 17 or 19 years of practice, but both will be allocated 10 marks even as those with more than 20 years of experience would uniformly get 20 marks for the same.”

The bench has allowed the Central government time till May 9 to respond on the entire matter as Solicitor General Mehta had asked for some time to reconsider the entire process. The matter will be heard on May 12.

The order stated that the other parties have all the rights to put forth their views within two days of Solicitor General’s response.

The application by the senior advocate also requested the Court to decide the uniform minimum number of marks to be obtained by a candidate to be designated a Senior Advocate.

She also added that advertisements should be posted twice a year inviting applications.

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